allocates $21 million for research, roughly 0.5 percent of the cost of the census. The panel endorses these criteria and notes that the research budget seems reasonable. The first recommended criterion is extremely important. Research experimentation and data collection should not disturb field operations. Enumerators already have a difficult job, and additional research programs or data collection that complicate their procedures should not be taken on without serious consideration of the benefits and costs. Expanding on the third recommended criterion, the panel also strongly believes that methods that are tested during the census should produce data that are comparable with those collected under current census methodology. Given the use of census data for congressional apportionment and redistricting and the allocation of federal funds, it would be unfair if some areas were penalized or helped by being chosen for census testing.
A concern with respect to testing as part of the decennial census is whether it is possible to predict 12 years in advance of a census (through other testing and experimentation) what methodologies might be effective. After all, technologies change at a rapid pace, and the population itself is dynamic. In response, it is worth noting that in previous censuses, the Census Bureau staff carried out tests that proved useful in advancing census methodology for subsequent censuses. One example is the mailout/mailback procedure, which was tested in 1960 and introduced on a broad scale in 1970. Another is the current testing (initiated in the early 1990s) of various ways to increase response—through redesigning the questionnaire, use of reminder cards, and sending replacement questionnaires—which will likely save substantial funds. The long lead time from one census to the next can actually be beneficial for these changes, since the introduction of a major change to census methodology can have unintended effects on other parts of the census process, and understanding those effects can take a long time and a good deal of careful research.
When unanticipated problems arise during a decennial census that require additional funds, field staff, or other resources, there is an understandable tendency to shift resources from research experimentation and data collection to solving immediate problems. Unfortunately, this may "mortgage the future" of census taking for short-term benefits. Some important issues involving the methodology to be used for the 2000 census would have been clarified if additional data collection had been incorporated into the 1990 census. The Panel on Decennial Census Methodology (which examined census methodology prior to the 1990 census) called specifically for data collection during the 1990 census that the present panel believes would have been useful in planning the 2000 census methodology. A report from that panel (National Research Council, 1988:2–3) states the following: